Nihonga Bunny

Today I attended the last instalment of the three-part Nihonga Japanese watercolour workshop for 2018. The first involved painting directly on gold-leaf based washi paper (Golden Pond). Then for the next, we created momi paper by painting layers of colours on the washi paper and crumpling it up, then painting on top of it (Momiji Autumn Leaves).

Today’s workshop was a combination of both: Painting a layer on washi paper’ then adding sheets of gold-leaf on top instead of another layer of colour, crumpling it up and then painting on top of it. I wanted to draw something cute again but one which was simple and typically traditional Japanese. Hence a bunny but in a form of rice cake!

We began by painting a thick layer of Japanese watercolour pigment. I chose a caramel beige. So far so good…

But next step a challenge, very carefully sticking gold leaf sheets onto the painted paper. A challenge reminiscent of that experience during our first workshop. Requires full concentration and lots of patience! But this time, no need to be perfect because we will end up crumpling up the paper anyhow!

Once all dry, we crumple up the paper. Since this special washi paper is as strong as cloth and virtually indestructible, it doesn’t tear. I love this wrinkly effect. Resembles leather but it’s gold. How bling!

After literally ironing out the paper with an iron, we mount it on a wooden frame of 17cm x 21cm. We glue the sides of the frame then wet the back of the paper with wide soft brush dipped in water. And we carefully but firmly wrap the paper on the frame, making sure the paper is taut.

And now ready to paint! But before that, we needed to trace the photocopied version of our desired drawings on it with a red or black carbon copy sheet. I deliberately chose a simple design due to time constraints and more importantly because I didn’t want to distract a beautiful gold background with an elaborate painting and vice versa.

I firstly used white pigment and once dry, added another layer. Next, I tapped in a layer of bright orange for the tray and eye. Whilst waiting for that to dry, I added green pigment for the leafy bits including the “ears”. Went back to the orange bit and applied a layer of some terracotta to play down the brightness without making it look too drab. Then I went back to the green and added more before covering another layer of white on the bunny.

I am very happy with this painting. It’s also wonderful to go back to my roots and explore my own culture. And I of course enjoy creating things cute and kawaii. This series of Nihonga workshop was a great experience, and I would like to do it again next year! By then my skills would be more developed so it would be interesting to compare. And I would like to experiment with silver paper next time!

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